Council Snippets What’s been happening on Calderdale Council

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More Council Cuts to Come

As things stand, Calderdale Council will have to reduce its spending by over £13m over the next three years. This is on top of the £93m that will have been made by next year.

Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, Cllr James Baker said: “The scale of the cuts is now too large. The Council has done a good job in becoming more efficient but there is only so much that can be done without damaging services. It is now a crunch time in local government.”

Departmental Merger Moves Forward

The Council has agreed to merge the posts of Director of Children’s Services and Director of Adults, Health and Social Care. Other changes to the two existing directorates will be decided later. Deputy Leader of the Council’s Liberal Democrat Group, Cllr Ashley Evans said: “I don’t think that the how and why of this move have been fully considered. Both of these directorates are large and complicated. Putting then together will result in an even bigger, more complicated directorate. Children’s Services have only just come out of ‘special measures’ and there is a danger that the Council will take its eye off the ball of improvement. I know that many councils have already merged these two departments, but many haven’t and some of those that had have now split them again. I am not convinced that the case has been made.”

Taking Action on Dangerous Driving

After a few small changes were made to James Baker’s motion on dangerous driving to include points made by the Labour and Conservative groups, everyone present supported it. Cllr Baker said: “The issue of dangerous driving is a major concern to many councillors, and it’s not just about speeding but includes tailgating, driving without insurance and driving while using a mobile phone. I think the standard of driving is deteriorating. There is an economic case and a moral case for tackling this issue.”

At the end of the debate Cllr Baker added: “It’s good to see local democracy in action with this issue being discussed at a number of Ward Forums, but with a quango making decisions on the use of speed cameras, decision-making is moving away from local people. The Council now needs to turn its words into actions and Conservative councillors could raise the matter of police cuts at their Party Conference next week.”

Improving Social Care

Liberal Democrat councillors supported a Labour motion on Social Care. Cllr James Baker said: “We agree that better joined-up working between social care providers and the NHS is needed. Social care doesn’t come cheap, though, and we may have to put our hands in our pockets and pay for it. As a society, we need to look at this issue and it may be that extra taxation is needed.”

 

20mph Zones

Liberal Democrat councillors opposed a Conservative motion to halt the introduction of 20mph zones until their effectiveness has been demonstrated. Cllr James Baker said: “The Conservatives know that this matter is to be discussed at the Economy and Environment Scrutiny Panel meeting in November. This motion is premature as all the evidence they want can be reviewed in detail at that meeting.”

Cllr Paul Bellenger said: “20mph limits do work, but it’s about education, not just physical changes to roads. Drivers need to be made aware of the dangers of driving over the speed limit.”

Grammar Schools

Liberal Democrat councillors supported a Labour motion asking the Government not to proceed with its reported policy of allowing the creation of more grammar schools. Cllr James Baker said: “We seem to have a policy based on nostalgia, but we need a forward-looking education policy. The evidence shows that grammar schools don’t help the majority of pupils who don’t go there. There are many more pressing problems in education, such as teachers leaving the profession because of the bureaucracy involved and box-ticking education.” 

Valley of Sanctuary

Liberal Democrat councillors supported the Labour motion that would “make Calderdale a formal part of the City of Sanctuary movement committed to building a culture of hospitality and welcome, especially for refugees and asylum seekers seeking sanctuary from war and persecution”. It being rather late by the time this was discussed, hardly anyone spoke on the matter. The motion was supported by Labour, Liberal Democrat and Independent councillors, with the Conservatives abstaining from voting. 

Small Victory

Ashley Evans again beat his Labour opponent from May, this time to become a member of the Warley Trust. His margin of victory was, though, considerably smaller this time.

Compulsory Purchase Powers

Cllr Ashley Evans asked if Calderdale Council intended to follow Birmingham City Council’s example of making more use of compulsory purchase powers on land owners who refuse to develop their land, thus reducing the need to develop on green field sites. The answer, though in considerably more words was basically “no, it’s not needed here”.

Glyphosate Weed Killer

Cllr Marilyn Greenwood asked if the Council had any plans to stop using glyphosate weed killers and switch to safer alternatives because of concerns about the effect on human health of glyphosate. The answer is that the Council aims to reduce its glyphosate usage by 10% each year until 2021. It has managed this this year, but has not yet found a suitable alternative. 

Greetland Station

Cllr Marilyn Greenwood asked whether the portfolio-holder for Regeneration and Economic Development would press for a feasibility study into building a passenger rail station at Greetland. The answer is that this was looked at in 2014 and was not thought to be commercially viable.

Marilyn’s argument is that things have changed: there are now plans for major alterations to the nearby road network and (possibly) to the hospital, which is relatively close by.

Planning Enforcement

James Baker asked about taking enforcement action against people using residential premises for car sales and repairs. The official answer was, roughly, that this is a very complicated area. However, later in the meeting the portfolio-holder distanced himself from this answer (prepared by officers) saying that it was a typical response that set out why the problem was not being fixed, rather than saying what was going to be done to fix it.

Monitoring Council Spending

Paul Bellenger asked a question about the sometimes large variation in council spending between the projections resulting from monitoring carried out in November and the actual spending at the end of March. He wanted to know if monitoring processes, and the way these are reported to councillors, needed to be improved. The answer, again taking up rather more words, was that both are being looked at.

We must fight to keep Britain open, tolerant and united – Tim Farron’s speech to Conference

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Tim began with a story from just after the referendum…

At the start of his speech, Tim spoke about a meeting held in Preston – the town he grew up in and learnt his values in – to talk about the referendum and the realisation he’d had there:

The people in that church hall in Preston, they’d voted differently to me but I thought, you know what, we’re on the same side here.

We see a London-centric no, Westminster-centric approach from politicians and the media. Treating the provinces as alien curiosities.

Those people in Preston and Sunderland and Newport see a divide between those who win and those who lose. When the country is booming, they don’t see the benefit. And when the country is in decline they are the first to be hit.

Those people … wanted, quite understandably, to give the powerful a kicking. So they did.

At that meeting they talked about low wages. About poor housing. About strains on hospitals and schools. Their problems weren’t caused by the European Union, they were caused by powerful people who took them for granted.

By politicians who have spent decades chasing cheap headlines and short-term success for their political careers, and never acting in the long-term interests of the whole country.

So those people in that room, like millions of others, wanted, quite understandably, to give the powerful a kicking. So they did.

…he then set out how he wants to reach out to Leave voters…

I wanted Britain to remain in the European Union and I still do. But we have got to listen, to learn and to understand why millions of people voted to leave. We can’t just tell them they’re wrong and stick our fingers in our ears.

So I want to do two things.

I want to persuade those who voted leave that we understand and respect their reasons, that we are determined to take head on the things about today’s Britain that have left so many people feeling ignored and I want to give them their say over what comes next.

…next, he turned to Theresa May and her “plan” for Brexit…

Theresa May – tell us what Brexit really means. You’ve had three months. You are the Prime Minister. Stop dithering. What is your plan?

The Liberal Democrats have a plan. We know what we want and we know where we want to take our country. When Theresa May does agree a deal with the EU, we want the people to decide.

Not a re-run of the referendum, not a second referendum, but a referendum on the terms of the as-yet-unknown Brexit deal.

…he then turned to the refugee crisis…

The biggest crisis facing our continent since the Second World War. They did nothing to help right until the point they thought it was in their short-term interest to act, when a photo of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi face down in the sand was on the front page of every newspaper.

The people were shocked, heartbroken, they demanded action and the Tories did the bare minimum. But since the front pages have moved on, they have barely lifted a finger.

Now there are some on the centre left who are squeamish about patriotism, but not me. I’m proud of my country; I hate it when my government makes me ashamed.

I hate it when my government makes me ashamed.

…and told a story from Lesbos…

We’d helped to land a flimsy boat of desperate refugees, I was handing out bottles of fresh water and a few yards away was an aid worker from New Zealand, who knew that I was a British politician.

She looked at me and shouted,

stop handing out bottles of water and take some f***ing refugees

Because that is how Britain is seen. Mean and not pulling its weight. And maybe that doesn’t bother some people, but it bothers me.

Because I am proud of who we are – always a sanctuary for the desperate, the abused and the persecuted; and I will not stand by and watch my country become smaller, meaner and more selfish.

That is not Britain. We are better than that.

…he then turned to the NHS and social care in England…

For years, politicians have chosen to paper over the cracks rather than come clean about what it will really take – what it will really cost – not just to keep the NHS afloat but to give people the care and the treatment that they deserve.

And that means, finally, bringing the NHS and the social care system together.

…and laid out why improving social care matters to him…

In my Grandpa’s journey through Alzheimers, he had good care in the home he spent his last couple of years in. But when he first became ill after the death of my Grandma, the place he was put in was despicable.

Lonely, unclean, uncaring. It’s a few years back, but as I fought to get him out of that place and into somewhere better, it occurred to me that this was a standard experience for too many older people and their loved ones.

Maybe some people can just shrug and accept this, well I can’t.

I’ve seen enough terrible old people’s homes. And I’ve seen enough people who’ve had to wait forever for treatment – particularly people who don’t have someone to fight their corner. It’s not civilised to let people slip through the net.

It’s not civilised towards the people who love them, who go out of their way to try and make their lives easier when everything else is making their lives harder. It’s not civilised and it’s not good enough.

…and proposed a solution to improve social care and make our NHS fit for the future…

We need to face the hard truth that the NHS needs more money – a lot more money – not just to stop it lurching from crisis to crisis but so that it can meet the needs and the challenges it will face in the years ahead. So that it can be the service we all need it to be for the long-term.

That means having the most frank and honest conversation about the NHS that the country has ever had. What Beveridge did for the 20th century, we need for the 21st century.

We need to face the hard truth that the NHS needs more money – a lot more money

In Norman Lamb we have the politician who is most trusted and respected by the health profession – and deservedly so. And Norman and I are clear, we will not join the ranks of those politicians who are too scared of losing votes to face up to what really needs to be done.

We will go to the British people with the results of our Beveridge Commission and we will offer a new deal for health and social care, honest about the cost, bold about the solution. If the only way to fund a health service that meets the needs of everyone, is to raise taxes, Liberal Democrats will raise taxes.

…Tim then turned to our schools…

Governments have designed an education system especially at primary school level that is focused not on developing young people for later life, for work or for further study, but on getting them through the wrong kinds of tests.

It’s not about whether kids can solve problems, or converse in other languages – or even their own. It’s about statistics. Measurements. League tables.

Instead of building an education system, we have built a quality assurance industry.

Instead of building an education system, we have built a quality assurance industry.It’s no wonder so many teachers are so frustrated. No wonder so many leave the profession.

…and laid out a plan to reduce testing and give teachers freedom to teach…

I want our schools to be places where our teachers have the freedom to use their skill and their knowledge to open young minds, not just train them to pass exams.

I want them to be places where children are inspired to learn, not stressed out by tests.

So I want to end the current system of SATS in primary schools that are a distraction from the real education that professional teachers want to give their children; that weigh heavy on children as young as six and add nothing to the breadth of their learning.

…and then launched a blistering attack on grammar schools…

What are we doing, in 2016, threatening to relegate 80% of our children to education’s second division by returning to the 11-plus? Every parent wants to send their kids to a good school. But more selective schools are not the answer.

We need better schools for all our children, not just those who can pass an exam at the age of 11. We can’t just leave children behind.

…he then turned to his problem with Jeremy Corbyn…

My problem with Jeremy Corbyn is that, for him, holding the government to account is not a priority. Winning elections is a bourgeois distraction – unless it’s his own leadership election.

It is baffling to see the Labour Party arguing about whether or not they should even be trying to win an election.

Can you imagine that? The Liberals and Liberal Democrats spent decades out of power and then when the opportunity finally came – in incredibly difficult circumstances, when the easiest thing in the world would have been to walk away – we chose to take power because we knew the point of politics is to put principles into action. To get things done. Not just to feel good, but to do good.

It is baffling to see the Labour Party arguing about whether or not they should even be trying to win an election.

So we took power … and we got crushed. So you could forgive us for thinking twice about whether power is really worth it.

But of course it’s worth it.

Having fine principles but no power is just turning your backs on the people who need you the most, its letting someone else win the day.

…and had a message to everyone who wants a real opposition to the Tories..

Whichever party you supported at the last election, we all know that Britain needs a decent, united opposition. So if Corbyn’s Labour has left the stage, then we will take the stage.

Britain needs a strong opposition. The Liberal Democrats will be that strong opposition.

…Tim then set out his plan to build a Britain that’s open, tolerant and united…

So here is my plan. We will dramatically rebuild our strength in local government, deliberately, passionately, effectively.

Winning council seats is our chance to shape, lead and serve our communities to put liberalism into practice.

Liberals believe in local government, I believe in local government, every council seat matters to me.

So my challenge to you is to pick a ward and win it, and my commitment to you is that I choose to build our party’s revival on victories in every council in the country.

And my plan includes continuing to grow our party – our membership is up 80% in just 14 months – but that is merely a staging post, we will continue to build a movement that can win at every level.

I will lead the Liberal Democrats as the only party committed to Britain in Europe, with a plan to let the people decide our future in a referendum on the as yet non-existent Tory Brexit deal.

I will lead the only party with a plan for our country’s long-term future. Green, healthy, well-educated, outward-looking, prosperous, secure.

I will build the open, tolerant, united party that can be the opposition to this Conservative government. On NHS underfunding, on divisive grammar schools, on its attacks on British business.

I want the Liberal Democrats to be ready to fill the gap where an official opposition should be. I want the Liberal Democrats to be the strong, united opposition.

That is my plan. I need you to join me to fight for it.

…Tim then set out the biggest threat to the Tories…

Well, look, no one believes, whether boundary changes happen or not, that Labour will gain a single seat from the Tories. The SNP could only possibly take one seat off the Conservatives. But there are dozens of Tory seats in our reach.

Which means that the only thing standing between the Conservatives and a majority at the next election is the revival of the Liberal Democrats.

…he gave a warning about Brexit and coined a phrase…

When Conservatives talk about a ‘hard Brexit’, this is what they mean. A Brexit that cuts us off from our neighbours, no matter what the consequences for people’s jobs and livelihoods.

A Brexit that toys with the lives of hard-working people who have made Britain their home, paid their way and immersed themselves in their communities, just as more than a million Brits have made their homes on the continent.

A Brexit that will leave us poorer, weaker and less able to protect ourselves. But we will not let Nigel Farage’s vision for Britain win. To coin a phrase. I want my country back.

…and Tim closed with this note of hope for our party.

Together, we must fight to keep Britain open, tolerant and united. Together, the Liberal Democrats must be the real voice of opposition. Together, we must win.

Don’t airbrush LGBT history from Shibden Hall

Calderdale Liberal Democrats are accusing the Council of not doing enough to tell the LGBT history that lies behind Anne Lister and Shibden Hall.

Shibden Hall is a landmark historic building in Calderdale and a wonderful place to visit. The hall was home to Anne Lister whose personal diaries detailing her lesbian relationships are recognised as part of the UNESCO memory of the word programme. The diaries have also been the subject of a BBC film by James Kent entitled the ‘Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister’.

A recent visitor to Shibden Hall, Mr Manley-Green, complained that the film wasn’t available to buy and that they had even run out of books on Anne Lister. Mr Manley-Green said “I’m not keen on being told ‘we have to be careful what we say to school groups’. I can’t think how different my life would have been if I’d have been told the story on my school trip some 50 years ago!”

Councillor James Baker (Warley), the leader of Calderdale Liberal Democrats, said “It appears the Council are trying to airbrush out the LGBT history from this site. There is little mention of Anne’s diaries on the Council’s webpage about Shibden Hall, there is a promotional video of the hall that does mention the diaries but it airbrushes out any reference to their importance as a piece of LGBT history.”

“This is a great opportunity for the Council to show Calderdale as a beacon of tolerance and a leader of putting history into a modern context. There are undoubtedly many commercial opportunities available to promote this destination as the home of the ‘first modern lesbian’”, said Cllr Baker.

Orginal picture by Rictor Norton & David Allen (CC BY 2.0) adapted to add rainbow flag. https://flic.kr/p/a4oKRT

Orginal picture by Rictor Norton & David Allen (CC BY 2.0) adapted to add rainbow flag. https://flic.kr/p/a4oKRT

Plummeting home ownership across West Yorkshire shows housing is no longer just a London problem.

Councillor James Baker leader of Calderdale Liberal Democrats  said:

“Fewer people are getting the opportunity to own their own homes, many younger people now struggle to be able to afford their own property. The struggle to buy property makes it harder for people to gain financial security that they may need to rely on in later life.”

The analysis shows that having peaked at 71 per cent in 2003, the proportion of people owning their own home across England has fallen steadily over the last decade by seven per cent.

Back in 2003, 70.8 per cent of households living in West Yorkshire were owners –  However, home ownership has since plummeted by 10 per cent – more so that by this year year just 60.2% per cent of households living in West Yorkshire owned their own home.

This fall in home ownership has corresponded with a near doubling in the proportion of private renters across England, up from 11 per cent in 2003 to 19 per cent in 2015.

Councillor Baker added:

“Here in Calderdale The Labour Council blames the Conservative Government. And the Conservative Government blames the Labour Council. Meanwhile there are people struggling to put a roof over their head, it’s time both Labour and the Conservative’s stopped arguing over whose fault it is and started working with us to find a solution.”

 

Home ownership across UK:

Area Peak of home ownership Home ownership in Feb-16 Change Date of peak home ownership
East Anglia 73.4% 66.9% -6.5% Oct-03
East Midlands 75.0% 66.9% -8.1% Oct-04
Greater Manchester 72.4% 57.9% -14.5% Apr-03
Inner London 42.6% 36.4% -6.2% Oct-04
Merseyside 71.4% 62.3% -9.1% Apr-03
Outer London 71.4% 57.8% -13.5% Oct-00
Rest of North West 78.7% 71.4% -7.3% Oct-99
Rest of Northern region 72.4% 63.3% -9.1% Oct-05
Rest of Scotland 71.5% 63.7% -7.7% Oct-04
Rest of South East 75.7% 70.5% -5.3% Apr-00
Rest of West Midlands 78.1% 68.7% -9.5% Oct-05
Rest of Yorks & Humberside 74.6% 65.0% -9.5% Apr-04
South West 75.2% 69.3% -5.9% Oct-99
South Yorkshire 68.2% 58.4% -9.8% Oct-05
Strathclyde 66.7% 63.3% -3.4% Nov-07
Tyne & Wear 64.0% 56.5% -7.5% Apr-03
West Midlands (met county) 70.5% 59.3% -11.2% Apr-05
West Yorkshire 70.8% 60.2% -10.6% Apr-03
England 70.8% 63.8% -7.0% Apr-03
Northern Ireland 73.5% 63.0% -10.5% Nov-06
Scotland 69.1% 63.5% -5.6% Oct-04
UK 70.9% 64.1% -6.8% Oct-04
Wales 74.8% 69.6% -5.1% May-06

Local Liberal Democrats Win Green Campaign Award

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Calderdale Council’s Liberal Democrat group has won the Green Campaigning Group of the Year Award for 2016. The award is one of a number made annually by the Local Government Association’s Liberal Democrat Group.

Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Cllr James Baker (Warley) told us: “I am very pleased that the group has won this award. It recognises our local campaigns on environmental issues over many years.”

“This award was made because of our recent work on the Green Economy in Calderdale, securing a £1.2 million affordable warmth insulation scheme in the Council’s 2015/16 budget, and getting the Council to commit to a 20% cut in its electricity consumption.”

“The Liberal Democrats are totally committed to protecting our environment and we will continue to press the Council to do more locally as well as playing its part in pushing for action nationally and internationally” said Cllr Baker.  “Reports this week have shown that, globally, last year was the hottest on record. June was the hottest June ever recorded and the 14th month in a row to break this record. Action is on the environment now is more important than it ever has been.

Calderdale Lib Dems make Freedom of Infomration Act request to reveal Greenbelt sites under review

An impressive and detailed report into the Green Belt has recently been discussed by the Council. This  draft report  suggests that some areas may be removed from the Green Belt and which will be subject to further review. However to date we have been unable to obtain the detailed list of where all these sites are.

Calderdale Liberal Democrats have now made a formal freedom of information act request to Calderdale Council to reveal the details of the 64 Greenbelt sites in Calderdale that will be examined for review.

Councillor James Baker (Leader of Calderdale Liberal Democrats) said: “We campaigned on the Council for all working group meetings to be held in public and for their papers to be published online. We were also informed by the Labour cabinet that this information would be in the public domain when the papers for the meeting were published.

You can imagine therefore how disappointed we are that it has  been impossible to get hold of the appendix to this report that lists all the sites. We raised this at full Council on 20th July and we have now submitted a formal Freedom of Information Act request for the information.” Rather than accept this document should have been made public, Labour Councillors have acted defensively, accusing us of dishonesty, and claiming the report is too large to publish online. This is regrettable.”

 

 

Support for Flood Commission Recommendations

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Liberal Democrat councillors fully support the recommendations of the Calderdale Flood Commission. The Commission was set up following the floods that devastated parts of the borough on Boxing Day 2015 and has spent the last few months collecting evidence from local people, the emergency services, the Environment Agency, Yorkshire Water and others.

Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, Cllr James Baker (Warley) said: “The Commission has produced a good, detailed report. This is an example of cross-party working at its best. However, now that the Commission has examined the evidence and its recommendations have been accepted, the Council needs to turn those recommendations into action. Calderdale Council must play a significant part in tackling the causes of flooding and reducing its effects. It needs to do this as a service provider, a community leader and as a regulator. The Council cannot do everything, but it must play a leading role in co-ordinating the activities of others and keeping up the pressure on central government, government agencies and the insurance companies. Accepting that flooding is always going to occur does not mean that steps should not be taken to reduce the effects on our communities”.

Protecting the Green Belt

GreenSpaces

As part of the process of producing a local plan, Calderdale Council is reviewing the local Green Belt.

Cllr Ashley Evans (Liberal Democrat, Warley) said: “An impressive and detailed report into the Green Belt has recently been discussed and this suggests that some areas may be removed from the Green Belt. However, once a site has been built on it is gone forever, so we must be extremely careful about this.”

“It was virtually impossible to see the details of the 64 sites that are to be examined further. More information has been promised, but has not yet arrived. I accept that printing out thousands of pages and sending it to councillors would not be a good idea, but I don’t accept that it couldn’t be made available on-line. The Chilcot Inquiry report into the Iraq war is available on-line and that consists of 12 volumes containing 2.5 million words. These things can be done, if there is a will to do them.”

“Members of the public should use the consultation process scheduled for later this year to make their views known, but they need to have all the information they can on what the Council is proposing. More houses are needed, but building these must not alter our communities out of all recognition.”

Liberal Democrat councillors back call for Council’s Cabinet to do more to tackle Calderdale’s housing problems.

Construction worker laying bricks showing trowel and guideline.

Construction worker laying bricks showing trowel and guideline.

Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Cllr James Baker (Warley) said: “Our population is increasing and the way we live is changing and both are increasing the local demand for housing. However, figures just released show that during David Cameron’s premiership, house building was at its lowest level since 1923. Many people – especially young people – are struggling to get onto the housing ladder. We need more houses to rent and to buy and covering the whole range of types and prices.”

“Calderdale needs a strong construction industry to provide the houses and the jobs that local people need. Action needs to be taken now to equip our young people with the skills the industry needs, especially if we are to become less reliant on workers from across Europe.”

“Houses need to be of good quality and built in the right places. We must protect our green spaces and especially the Green Belt. We want to see an emphasis on building on previously-developed brownfield sites. As the Council has given planning permission for over 3,000 homes on sites that are currently not being developed, building these homes would be a major step forward and reduce the pressure to build on other, less appropriate sites”

“With interest rates at record lows, now is the time to be investing in housing to ensure a better future for Calderdale residents”.